The annual science communication conference SCI:COM took place on Wednesday 12th December in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Science Foundation Ireland and University College Dublin were the main sponsors of the event.
The theme of the conference this year was “reputation and visibility in research.” Throughout the conference, questions such as how one’s reputation affects one’s ability to succeed and how performance is measured were tackled. With the term “expert” being framed as a pejorative by some in recent years, as outlined in Tom Nichlos’ The Death of Expertise, this theme aligned well with the concerns felt by many scientists today.
The keynote speaker of the one-day event was the actor, director, screenwriter, comedian and author Alan Alda. Famously known for having won six Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards in total for M*A*S*H and The West Wing, Alda hosted Scientific American Frontiers, a television show that explored cutting-edge advances in science and technology, for 14 years. He is the founder of the Alda Centre for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, New York. For this work, he was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal in 2016.
Other speakers on the day included Adam Rutherford, the best-selling author and presenter of Inside Science on BBC, and Met Éireann weather forecaster Joanna Donnelly, who recently authored The Great Irish Weather Book. Rutherford and Donnelly were on a panel in a break-out session aimed at demystifying the world of popular science publishing. A parallel session tackled the practicalities of launching a national Climate Action Week, with a view to generating awareness and action around climate change science. The conference even included a musical interlude by percussionist Alex Petcu. The day concluded with a panel dialogue on the topic of inclusivity and diversity in the field of science communication, and also in science more broadly.
“As a community we need to ensure that we authentically connect with stakeholders and communicate our research stories effectively.” said Alex Boyd, Co-founder of SCI:COM and Public Engagement Project Manager at University College Dublin.
SCI:COM is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, University College Dublin, British Council (Ireland), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish Research Council, the Adapt and Amber SFI Research Centres, Danone Ireland, Abbott, the Public Relations Institute of Ireland and RCSI.